Cross-Functional Learning


Our well-rounded business content is designed for Leaders & Managers to implement change with ease & improve accountability amongst their teams. Here you'll find Articles from thought leaders in their fields, have access to practical Business Templates, learn new skills & expand on skills you already have. Stay informed & proactive...Join Us Today!

Join Now

Five Steps Great Managers Take Before Letting Someone Go

By Lisa Woods (911 words)
Posted in Management on May 24, 2012

There are (11) comments permalink

Add to My Toolkit

OK…you have a great organization, but there is that one employee that just can’t seem to fit in with the team, they are always bucking the system, resisting your leadership, going rogue, missing deadlines, causing you more work.  The list of reasons to get rid of them goes on and on, so you ask yourself, at what point do I have enough to let them go?  But should you really be asking yourself, at what point have I done enough to help this person succeed?  Great Managers see through the bad stuff and refocus their management tactics to get the best out of people, no matter how difficult the situation.  Here are five steps Great Managers take before letting someone go.


Step One:  Take your ego out of the equation and focus on the employee.

When you are in a position of power it is hard to step back and let someone that is disrespecting you take the lead.  But if you are going to help them, that is exactly what you need to do.


Step Two:  Have them define their impression of the job, good and bad aspects.

Visit them on their turf.  Let them know that you think they may not be happy with the job, the relationship with the team or with you, and you want to fix it.  Get them to define what they really think about the job, what they like and what they don’t like about it…ask probing questions to get them to comment on specifics.


Step Three:  Ask them how they would like to manage their job, what they would like to accomplish and the support they need from you to make it happen.

At this stage they have nothing to lose.  If you were not happy with them, they were not happy with you either, so you are giving them a chance to open up to you and show you what they can bring to the table.  It is very important that they define what they need from you and your role in their ideal relationship.  It will give you some insight into what motivates them.


Step Four: Define what you need from them to give them the support that they need from you.

You have nothing to lose by giving them the freedom to accomplish something that they believe will bring value to the organization.  But the deal is that they need to give you something in return.  This can be anything from meeting certain deadlines, showing an active participation in team meetings, whatever it is that you need to incorporate this person into your team as a functioning member.


Step Five:  Establish periodic reviews on all aspects of your new relationship.  Have they accomplished what they set out to do?  Are you providing them with the support they needed?  Are they providing what you asked for from them?  After a reasonable period of time, three to six months, you both will have come to one of three conclusions.

1)   Your employee has done an amazing job bringing value to your organization beyond your expectations.

2)   Your employee’s way of working was not the best way and they are more willing to do things your way.

3)   A mutual separation makes sense because you both made your best effort and the relationship does not work for anyone.


Two memorable comments I’ve heard over the years were-

“If it ever gets easy firing someone, then you need to quit”, and

“If you need to let someone go, it’s because you haven’t done a good job managing them”.   


Based on my experience I offer you a different perspective on these two points.


Letting people go is never easy to do and should not be taken lightly.  However, by implementing these five steps I was always confident in my decision.  While I let some go, I am proud to have helped even more individuals make remarkable turnarounds in their careers.  If I can leave you with anything, I hope it is a desire to help people do great things, no matter how difficult the challenge. 


At ManagingAmericans.com we encourage members to go in and out of our communities and learn about different professions; how to work together, solve problems and improve skills.  Each community details expectations, challenges, success tips, training programs and useful resources. Growing your knowledge base and learning about all areas of business can help you decide on a career path that is right for you.  We have professionals on staff that can answer questions, as well as an abundance of readily available tools and tips for achieving success in your career.  Please take full advantage of our website and your full potential.


I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life.  Test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your experiences.  Good luck!


{#/pub/images/lisa5.jpg}Written by Lisa Woods, President ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, and dynamic business leader with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth. Throughout her career, Lisa has been influential in integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and developing employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors.


Do you have a question for Lisa?  Post it in our Executive Leadership Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


Did you find this story informative?  We would like the opportunity to keep you up to date on all of our training articles.  Please register for our newsletter so we can do just that. 

Comments (11)

Tom Enders posted on: May 27, 2012

You forgot two important steps: training and coaching.

Granted, these are more for entry level employees.

However, not everyone grasps everything at the same speed. Training and coaching are required to ensure you have provided everything you can provide to the employee.

Lisa Woods posted on: June 4, 2012

Good point Tom! There is probably some need for training and coaching no matter what level of the company you are.

Matt Gimple posted on: June 29, 2012

I'm not a fan of the 80/20 rule. One, it's inaccurate, the ratio is more like 80/02. I'd like to spend the majority of my time on the majority of those in the organization who are productive, show the potential to be productive, and aren't bucking the system or resisting. When you do that the true outliers on the low end stand out in deep contrast and you spend a focused amount of time addressing those issues. In the end, some won't get it and likely by constant intervention and attempts to have them fit your organizations model you are preventing them from an oppurtunity elsewhere. Tragic, you are frustrated, they are frustrated and the vast majority who do get it are frustrated. The employee who didn't fit in continues to not fit in and requires more and more intervention. At a certain point it's ok to let them go. You regain a proper balance working with the rest of the team and they get the opportunity to pursue options that they do fit. See John Maxwell and his 21 Rules of Leadership.

Tom Murray posted on: June 29, 2012

A firing demonstrates a failure on one or possibly several areas by an employer large or small. First it may indicate a poor screening process by human resources and or the front line hiring managers.Second as Brian shared a " broken" employee often is symptom of something much deeper and within the organization being " broken".
Possibly employee training is inadequate, perhaps poor communication of organization objectives, or a lack of clear position objectives and expectations exists. A flawed organization process may have created an work environment whereas lack of the proper tools , resources, and support make employee's success possible in the short run, but unsustainable in the long term.

Robin Deacle posted on: June 29, 2012

Only the employee can fix him/herself, and they need the right environment to do so. The first tip here - take your ego out of the equation - is important. If you assume no one wants to do a bad job, then you can work on leveling expectations and fixing communications issues (steps 2-5). This is a nice general model if you are committed to resolving something in the end.

John Haro posted on: June 29, 2012

this is a good blog post, But is it some times the leader who is not being a good leader and that where the problem lies.

Sharon Powers posted on: June 29, 2012

Only the employee can "fix" themselves. A manager's role is to provide guidance, resources and feedback and give the employee every opportunity to get with the program. Unfortunately, sometimes it still doesn't work and the employee has to be let go. Terminating an employee should always be done with diplomacy, confidentiality and respect.

Anders Armandt posted on: June 29, 2012

What do you do when the persons personal life invade worklife. For example. One person in my staff fullfill the work duties outstanding, but but have trouble arriving on time for work. Allways 10 or 15min late. When I point it out for the staff member. I always get an excuse related to personal life. Trouble getting the kids to school, trouble with the spouse. I have tried to alter the starting time, but dosen´t work out. I have talk to the person to really understand what the problems are. I get no response. I have planted the seed for a change, but it dosen´t seem to grow, if you know what i mean.

Kenneth Fish posted on: June 29, 2012

Good points Carlos. Clear concise timely communication. Focus on the performance or behavior not the person. Show your concern for the person and be sincere in how you want to help them help themselves.Establish expectations and how the objectives will be measured and set a reasonable time frame for the associate to conform. Most people want to do a good job, some get lost along the way and need guidance back, others may not fit even with your best efforts.

Daniel Reece posted on: August 16, 2012

Couldn't agree more. Most public sector employees that I have met want to perform at work. Oftentimes, individual's roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined, or have not been updated in years. A great manager regularly communicates performance expectations, provides examples of what "good" performance is (without referencing other employees).

DANIEL QUIAMBAO posted on: September 26, 2012

For a great managers, it is very difficult terminating people who haven’t panned out is crucial to creating a quality team It’s a manager’s job to make sure every individual pulls his or her weight. unchecked, under-performing employees will bring a company down, and it’s a manager’s job to make sure every individual pulls his or her weight. Get Assessments from Top to Bottom - talk to as many people as possible about the employee’s contributions. You may discover untapped abilities or even less productivity than you imagined, but either way you will have more useful information. Fire with Honesty and Humanity - Think about what you’re going to say. Plan for how you will handle emotional outbursts. Take a few minutes before your scheduled meeting to breathe, reiterate your goals, and focus on your vocal tone.

Leave a comment

Not a robot?